Zibby Owens Takeover of The Sunday Paper Recommends—Week of May 28, 2023
As summer gets underway, it's the perfect time to build your to-be-read pile with books you can throw in your beach bag on your way out the door. To help us out, we followed up with our friend Zibby Owens. Zibby is an author, podcaster, CEO, and bookstore owner.
Summer is around the corner. Finally! To me, that means the promise of (or more likely, the illusion of) free time, endless hours spent devouring novels in the sun not delving into emails at my desk. As the podcast host of daily show Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books and owner of Zibby’s Bookshop, an independent bookstore on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, I get to preview a lot of summer titles. But I don’t like to just recommend carte blanche. I prefer to suggest books based on how you want to feel and what you’re in the mood for. That’s how we curate the inventory at our store along with other fun, new ways to make sure every shopper feels like there’s a book waiting for them. Here are a few you might have to delve into as summer kicks off. Think about it: how do you want your next book to make you feel?!
Books That Make You….
Drowning by T.J. Newman
In this follow-up to T.J.’s New York Times bestseller novel Falling, a father and daughter have to race against time after their plane crashes into ocean. Trapped in the vessel underwater, they must contend with several other passengers as they wait for, ironically, the daughter’s mother — divorced from her dad — on land to try to save them. This time, getting along with an ex just might be the difference between life and death. I couldn’t put this down and sat with my hand covering my mouth, emitting various gasps, as I read it. You might need to warn your seat neighbor.
The Society of Shame by Jane Roper
I wasn’t expecting this book to be funny and found myself hysterically laughing within the first few pages. I am now forever grateful to Jane Roper for shifting my mood so much and being one of the cleverest debut authors around. In the story, a politician’s wife catches her husband in an affair at their home only to then squat down and expose a period stain on her pants — which the cab driver snaps on his phone and then goes viral. The book is a commentary of feminism, womanhood, politics, social media and privacy while being absolutely hysterical.
Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum
It’s a funny thing: having a group of people you only see in the summer despite living in the same city year-round. So it goes with this Fire Island crew of adults who descend on Memorial Day for a summer filled with drinks, tennis, gossip and more. When one of the residents ends up dead, various members of the community have to cover it up or even potentially be suspects. It’s funny and smart with an observational nature of this particular class of people that is second-to-none. A dark comedy perfect for the times.
Stash: My Life in Hiding by Laura Cathcart Robbins
The best scene in this book — and there are many — is on July 4th when Laura hides from her sons during the fireworks to take pills and drink, knowing that what she’s doing isn’t what she wants and admitting then that she was hitting bottom. Laura’s open, frank depiction of what it means to be a high-functioning, type A, popular L.A. mom who is hiding a corrosive secret of addiction, is incredibly powerful.
Look For Me There: Grieving My Father, Finding Myself by Luke Russert
"Meet the Press"’s famous newscaster Tim Russert passed away suddenly in 2008 leaving his journalist wife Maureen Orth and their early 20’s son Luke behind. Now Luke has grown up and has written a profoundly moving exploration into grief, a coming-of-age travel story that not only takes us around the world physically, but also emotionally. Luke gives up his own nascent broadcast career to explore, solo, only then giving himself the time and space to process all that he truly feels. As the reader, we are rooting for Luke at every stage, celebrating the very fact that he has written this (now bestselling!) book. The best part for me is that he doesn’t wrap everything up with a bow at the end. He is still figuring things out. And really, aren’t we all?!
You can read Luke's piece for The Sunday Paper on what he learned when he stopped trying to outrun grief here.
The Leaving Season: A Memoir in Essays by Kelly McMasters
Kelly is my new favorite author. The Leaving Season is absolutely beautiful. Kelly writes about her toxic marriage, how she copes with raising her boys later as a single mother, confronting the nature and landscape in rural Pennsylvania, opening — and closing — a bookstore, and ultimately learning how to piece her life back together. Her prose is both lyrical and relatable. It will be hard to read this book and not fall in love with Kelly. She also writes candidly about the tough financial times she fell on and how she got (gets) through them.
Hedge by Jane Delury
When a mother, recently separated from her spouse, leaves her two kids for the summer to work on a garden project in Montgomery Place, she meets an alluring stranger named Gabriel. It’s only when the kids visit and her daughter shares something disturbing that Maud has to choose between passion and motherhood. Or does she? (Note: this is a book published by my publishing company Zibby Books.)
Everything’s Fine by Cecilia Rabess
When a Black investment banking analyst takes up with a white former colleague turned hedge-funder, they seem to be at odds about everything until slowly a relationship takes hold. But on the heels of the 2016 election, can their differences really be put aside? I loved the inside look at Goldman Sachs and the fish-out-of-water feeling narrator Jess had. It was like a modern-day, Black, female Liar’s Poker.
The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop
This book is one of my recent favorites, an escapist guilty pleasure. At age 17, Rachel goes to a Greek island with her girlfriend Caroline before heading back to school but ends up falling in love with Alastair, a much older man, who only has eyes for her. Juxtaposed with this timeline is Rachel now married to a nice man named Tom who would do anything for her and for whom she has only lukewarm feelings. It’s only when she lets go with her friend Jules that she lets herself get back in touch with Alistair years later, confronting the desperate secrets that shrouded the end of their time together. Propulsive, steamy, and set in the most gorgeous location, this novel is one I’d love to just hop into like Mary Poppins into a chalk drawing on the sidewalk.
A Place Called Home by David Ambroz
This absolutely powerful and beautiful memoir by L.A.-based media executive David Ambroz reveals his childhood in foster care, the abuse he suffered, the homelessness, his fractured family, and how he rose above all of it to become a charming, brilliant, well-adjusted foster dad himself.
Woman’s Day Editor-in-Chief Meghan B Murphy writes from the heart about how to make the most of life, master the overwhelm and increase gratitude. Her book came out just before she began a breast cancer battle which she shared openly on Instagram, using all the skills she’d honed in the book. You can’t help but cheer for Meaghan, the most upbeat positive woman, who tackles any challenge with grace — and good advice.
Host of the award-winning daily podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, Zibby Owens founded Zibby Media which includes publishing house Zibby Books, Webby Award-winning online literary lifestyle destination Zibby Mag, Zibby’s Book Club, Zibby Retreats, education platform Zibby Classes, and Zibby Audio, the podcast network. She also owns Zibby’s Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Santa Monica, CA. Author of Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature, Zibby has a novel forthcoming in March 2024 entitled Blank. Follow her on Instagram @zibbyowens.